Spieth in seventh heaven

Jordan Spieth celebrating with his caddie on the 18th green after putting for birdie to go 30 under and winning the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Maui.
Jordan Spieth celebrating with his caddie on the 18th green after putting for birdie to go 30 under and winning the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Golf Club in Maui.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

World No. 1 claims 7th PGA Tour victory before 23, matching Tiger Woods' record

LOS ANGELES • The comparisons are irresistible and inevitable as each took over the golf world at the outset of their careers.

By winning the USPGA Tournament of Champions in a dominant fashion in Hawaii on Sunday, Jordan Spieth once again raised the question whether he is a more talented golfer than Tiger Woods who can go on to do much better than the declining former world No. 1.

It was Spieth's seventh PGA Tour victory, two of which have been Majors, six months before his 23rd birthday. At a similar age, Woods had seven victories, one of them a Major.

Asked how he felt after matching 14-time Major winner Woods with a seventh PGA Tour victory before the age of 23, Spieth replied: "I am nowhere near him. I don't think there is any reason to compare.

"It is awfully early. What Tiger has done I can't imagine ever being done again.

"It is nice to be in that company any time you can get into the company of some of the Hall of Fame players. It is certainly a goal I have had since I was a kid."

Spieth nevertheless underlined his status as world No. 1 by cruising to an eight-shot victory, after repelling an early challenge by fellow American Patrick Reed.

On a breezy day at the Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui, the imperious Spieth, 22, signed off with a six-under 67 to outclass the elite, winners-only field of 32 as he mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to post a 30-under total of 262.

He became only the second player to finish a 72-hole event on the PGA Tour at 30 under or better, emulating South African Ernie Els, who won the 2003 Tournament of Champions with a 31-under aggregate.

It may be his first USPGA Tour tournament of 2016, but Spieth has picked up right where he left off last year when he won two Majors and five titles. He also finished runner-up at the PGA Championship and fourth at the British Open.

It was his sixth victory on the PGA Tour in his last 21 starts.

"I'm very satisfied," the Masters and US Open champion told Golf Channel after being congratulated by his family on the edge of the 18th green and collecting US$1.18 million (S$1.69 million) in prize money.

"I felt like it was just a short three-week break over the holidays and then I just try to continue exactly what we were doing last year. It worked this week and all parts of the game were firing."

Defending champion Reed cut Spieth's lead to three shots after making a sizzling start to the final round but he ran out of steam after the turn on the way to a 69 and had to settle for a distant second place.

Brandt Snedeker birdied two of the last four holes for a 67 to tie for third with fellow American Brooks Koepka (71) at 21 under.

World No. 2 Jason Day, who was playing for the first time in three months, shot a 65 to finish tied for 10th at 15 under. British Open champion Zach Johnson tied for 21st after closing with a 67.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2016, with the headline 'SPIETH IN SEVENTH HEAVEN'. Print Edition | Subscribe